Martin O'Neill believes it would have been morally wrong to "convince" either Declan Rice or Jack Grealish to play for the Republic of Ireland competitively - because their hearts were both set on representing England.
O'Neill told Jim White on Talksport: "You can't coerce players into becoming international players. Declan played in three friendly games at senior level, he was terrific in the games. It’s as simple as this: Declan Rice wanted to play for England. He’s born in England, it really is as simple as that, you cannot just bring them into an international game, a competitive game, where the minute they play a competitive match for the country that’s them announcing they’re going to be playing for them.
"That was never going to be the case, you can’t deceive people into playing these games. You cannot force them into that."
Had either player, now preparing for Saturday's World Cup quarter-final against favourites France, donned the green shirt in a competitive fixture, they would have been internationally tied to the Republic at the time - though such stipulations have since been relaxed.
O'Neill said he had detailed discussions with both - and their families.
"If Gareth Southgate had said 'you haven’t got a prayer of getting in this side over the next five years’ there might have been a conversation, but that wasn’t the case.
"Jack Grealish was in my early stages of international management. I went to see Jack and his dad. Jack was born in England, and Jack Grealish did play some underage football for the Republic of Ireland, which he loved doing.
"But then when you have to make a decision, that decision was made by Jack Grealish and his father. His father's also English too, you might go back to heritage as well, but that’s what they wanted to do, and I’m not going to disavow them of that."
Whether it was by coercion or otherwise, O'Neill believes it would have been wrong on many levels to cap the players in a competitive game.
"I couldn't possibly do that, that would be wrong for a start. And secondly, it’s not as if they don’t know the rules. The players know the rules and the players’ dads know the rules, it couldn’t be more simple, so this idea of taking criticism for not coercing two players who are now playing for England.
"I wouldn’t possibly have done it, and Declan Rice would have been aware of it so he wouldn’t have done it.